Managing overheads: The devil in the detail


Managing overheads: The devil in the detail

Have you checked your bank statement lately? Making small changes can add up to big savings on everyday bills, suggests pharmacy ower Noel Wicks

One of the main concerns for community pharmacies in the current climate is how to combat the increasing costs of running a pharmacy business against a backdrop of static, if not reduced, funding.

It’s not an easy problem to solve because, in many cases, costs feel like they are out of our control, even more so when some utilities seem able to put up their prices whenever they feel like it. But is it possible to fi ght back and make some savings here and there?

Utilities uncovered

In the case of these electricity and telephone services in particular, it’s defi nitely worth keeping your contracts under review as significant savings are to be had, especially if you’ve ended up slipping onto the standard tariffs. Trade associations and buying groups can offer suggestions for preferred suppliers, and there’s no shortage of brokers out there as well who promise to save you money.

The best deals can sometimes be had simply through negotiation with your current supplier, but be sure to have competitors’ prices to hand. This approach has the added bonus of meaning you stay with your current supplier, which can be benefi cial. In our experience, companies will often do whatever they can to try and block you from moving. To this end, it’s worth keeping a note of whom you spoke to and when in case this happens and you need to refer back to it at a later date.

Use less energy

It’s not just the pricing you can reduce. Look at your overall usage, too. In terms of electricity, we have swapped most of our pharmacies over to using LED lighting panels. These slot into the ceiling tiles in place of the standard tube lighting panels, but use approximately four times less energy. We found the most costeffective way to do this was to buy the panels ourselves online for about £15 each then have a local electrician fit them. They have the added benefit of lasting longer than tubes and not needing starter motors replaced. We’ve also found they are extremely bright and therefore, at the request of staff, we have started replacing two panels for every three of the oldstyle fittings we’ve removed. You’ll need some spare ceiling tiles to hand, though, as you won’t want to leave a big gap that will let all the heat out and look unsightly.

If you’re using electricity to heat the pharmacy, it’s worth looking at energy-saving tips online because something as simple as a draught excluder or some insulation could make a difference to the temperature in the pharmacy and mean heaters aren’t used as much.

Go online for wholesalers

In terms of the telephone, you may have noticed recently that some wholesalers have replaced their local numbers with a national 08 one. These numbers can attract higher charges so, instead, ask staff to use the wholesalers’ websites to place orders rather than hitting the phones. In our experience, it’s usually quicker anyway, particularly if you bookmark the page.

Save on bank charges

Bank charges are a particular bugbear of mine. It feels like yet again businesses get stung for ridiculous amounts for transactions that personal account users get for free.

For example, we’ve found that a same-day faster transfer can attract anywhere upto a £5 fee versus a much more tolerable 30p to 50p for a standard three-day BACS transfer.

Card machines are another area where you may be paying too much in transaction fees and monthly rental. In recent times, debit card payments have moved to a percentage (like credit cards) rather than a fixed fee. This is good news for those of us who are used to getting high volumes of smaller transactions in the pharmacy. In fact, you may want to encourage the use of debit cards because it can work out cheaper than the fees charged by the bank for allowing you to deposit cash takings.

It’s also worth making sure your machine can take all the latest payment forms such as Apple Pay and contactless to be confi dent that you are keeping up with the times.

Look after the pennies

These are just a few examples of ways to reduce the overheads of your business, but they do demonstrate areas where seemingly small costs can stack up over the course of a year to big bills. This means that even making what appear to be small savings can grow to make a significant difference to your bottom line.

So next time you see a statement or pay a bill, consider whether you’re getting the best value for money. If not, then make a note in the diary to do something about it.

  • Noel wicks is a pharmacist and independent pharmacy owner

It's not just the pricing you can reduce. Look at your overall usage, too

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